Jeff Walker is the kind of teacher that makes engineering classes fun. With his enthusiasm and hand-on experiments, from building simple machines to launching rockets, he creates an engaging and challenging classroom for his students.
Walker, a STEM teacher at Pine Lake Preparatory in Mooresville, enriches the lives of the school’s student body by developing programs like STEM-based engineering classes and coaching the robotics team. He also started a “coffeehouse” open mic night to give students a space to perform in a welcoming environment.
Walker, of Mooresville, is one of the original teachers at Pine Lake, having taught chemistry when the school opened in 2008.
“He greets students with a personal approach and they respect him deeply because they know he respects and cares about them as individuals,” said parent Kristen Sutek, who nominated Walker and is the community relations manager for the school. “Mr. Walker is one of those special teachers who has a life-long impact,” she said.
Walker’s exceptional teaching skills and his dedication to his students and school led to his selection to the N.C. Education Lottery as one of its 10 N.C. School Heroes.
“I believe that success in life hinges on passion,” said Walker. “If you have passion for your job, classes, hobbies, friends and family, all of the rest takes care of itself.”
The North Carolina Education Lottery created the N.C. School Heroes program to showcase the positive impacts that teachers, principals and other school workers have in public schools every day. From 6,750 nominations, 10 heroes were chosen with each receiving a $10,000 award and $10,000 for their school.
Upon hearing that he had won the award, Walker was thankful and shared that he was “in a state of shock. I couldn’t believe I was fortunate to win especially with all those candidates nominated. I am most happy for the school. It is a most wonderful place.” He shared that he would like to use the money to do some fun things with his two boys, ages 11 and 13.
Andrew Moceri, executive director of Pine Lake Preparatory noted that he “knew how deserving Jeff was. He has such an impact on the kids. Some of his alumni came back. That shows his impact. I was excited and happy to be able to share his story.”
During the presentation, Moceri expressed his thanks that the N.C. Lottery group “found us, they found Jeff. He is a special educator.”
Walker did a short class for a few elementary students Thursday morning in a STEM classroom. As he greeted the students, he told them he had a surprise for them, two 17 year olds – Jeremiah and Spencer – who were going to show them a problem-solving lesson. They had developed a machine that could sort Legos according to their colors.
The two explained how the machine worked using a computer camera which recognized the colors and then the Legos would go through the proper tube and into the correct bin. The class got an upclose look at the machine as it sorted and placed the Legos properly.
Prior to watching the machine work and afterward, Walker stressed the goal of the lesson – don’t give up. He shared that Jeremiah and Spencer had to work at their project and try many times before it worked. Walker told the group if “it doesn’t work the first time, that’s okay, or the fourth time or the millionth time, it’s okay, keep working. Don’t give up.”
Following the class time, the students, former students and parents gathered afterward for the check presentation and cheered and clapped as their hero received his award.
“There are thousands of heroes like Jeff Walker doing amazing work in our public schools,” said Mark Michaiko, executive director of the N.C. Education Lottery. “Teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians, school resource officers, all make a big difference for our students every day. We’re glad our School Heroes program shines a spotlight on their great work.”
Van Denton from the N.C. Education Lottery was also on hand for the presentation. He shared that there were two million votes cast in the state and Jeff was one of the top vote getters.
This is the first year for the N.C. School Heroes to be award, Denton said. The mission is to support education. He said they wanted to support a broader education community too and were looking for a way to celebrate all the work done in the schools and honor those as school heroes.
We are “amazed at the response,” he said. “People across North Carolina recognized there are heroes in our schools.”
Money raised by the lottery assists many of those School Heroes, including $386 million this year that supports the work of school support staff such as office assistants and custodians. Additional money will help build and repair schools, support the N.C. Pre-K program for “at-risk” 4-year-olds, provide college scholarships and grants based on financial need, and help meet school transportation needs. For details on $10.4 million in lottery funds made a difference in Iredell County, click on the impact section of the lottery’s website, www.nclottery.com.